Valve announced Dota Plus which is a new monthly subscription service designed to help players make decisions about their heroes, lanes and item choices. The Premium upgrade to the former Battle pass system contains several features exclusive to Dota Plus members. At just $3.99 per month, this is the first subscription-based payment amongst the big esports titles right now. It is a fundamental change in the economic model for Dota 2 which pioneered the free to play model when it was first released.
Dota Plus has several key features that many would argue should be a part of the game at its core. Providing statistics and helping new players is definitely a long-standing demand on several Dota 2 forums. These features will definitely help new players understand and enjoy the game. However, the accusations that Dota Plus steers Dota 2 towards being a Pay to Win (P2W) game is wrong as well as preposterous.
What is a Pay to Win model?
Games that let you buy better gear or allow you to make better items than everyone else at a faster rate and then makes the game largely unbalanced even for people who have skill in the game without paying.
Pay 2 win is one of the most significant reasons for the success of the Mobile gaming industry. The various games often provide boosts and faster building times on purchase of In-Game currency. The only way to buy these currencies is most often, via real money.
The Pay 2 win model requires users to purchase in-game benefits which will help them gain a significant and often unsurmountable ( without paying ) advantage over their peers. It is a proven and successful business model in the gaming industry, especially in the profitable Mobile gaming. However, it also faces a lot of flak from the community as it is seen as an unfair advantage to those who have the money to spend. Gaming is a competition and if all players do not start at the same level, it provides an unfair advantage to one party.
Dota Plus is not Pay 2 win and here’s why…
Dota plus’ most controversial and discussed feature is the ‘Plus Assistant’. The AI-powered assistant provides suggestions on item builds and skill builds. It takes into account the lane, the existing heroes in the match, past trends and the general meta of the players in the current skill group. There is no denying the fact that the Plus Assistant is extremely useful to new players or just players who want to learn new item builds, skill level-ups etc. Some might say it does provide an advantage to the new players, however, the game only suggests based on data at the skill level. So you will most likely see suggestions of items which you see in many of your pub matches.
As we go higher up the MMR ladder, the impact of the Plus Assistant suggestions rapidly decreases. Dota 2 is a very complex game and the item choices, lane choices as well as the skill build vary from match to match. There are so many factors affecting these choices and at the highest level players often make their own decisions. It can be off-meta decisions, but positioning and teamwork definitely help them achieve their goal. The Plus Assistant as a feature will be primarily used by newer and lower ranked players. However, it is just a learning tool and as they develop and grow their performance; we will see the players slowly move off the Plus Assistant suggestions.
But this outlines another problem with the introduction of Dota Plus. Why should new players be greeted with a paywall to learn the game?
Dota 2 was the first free to play game published by Valve. The runaway success of Dota 2 was attributed in part to the novel economic model which essentially provided a free game with paid cosmetic items. The free game attracted lots of new players who were interested in the game and wanted to give it a try.
Dota 2 has one of the steepest learning curves in all of esports. As a MOBA, it has a multifaceted gameplay associated with it. There are so many factors affecting the final result that it is often impossible to gain an advantage just by suggestions based on past performances. As an analyst, it is very difficult to pinpoint one particular incident in the game which changed the direction of the match.
The Dota Plus subscription will grant access to the use of the Plus Assistant. Plus Assistant offers real-time item and ability suggestions to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends. These suggestions are generated from data gathered across millions of recent games at each skill bracket
This data is a broad spectrum data which is not tailored to individual matches. Instead, the assistant will most likely provide an average of the current meta. This might be in the form of hero suggestions, items or skill builds. We have already covered why the Assistant suggestions will not be as useful as we go higher up the MMR ladder.
But for new players, it is a treasure. Dota 2 can be very confusing with players taking several months to actually understand the game. Even then, there will be certain mechanics and heroes that they will not be fully aware of. Dota 2 requires lots of practice and learning in order to understand and remember the various aspects of the game.
You can be overwhelmed with the steep learning curve of the game, especially as a new player. Not knowing which item to build or what skills to level up can be a very daunting task. The Dota 2 subreddit is filled with bad new player experiences, especially those without any background in MOBA.
Dota Plus is definitely good for new players, which brings us to the question: Why is it behind a Paywall? Why should new players pay to actually learn the game? The tutorial should be a feature core to the game enabling new players to learn the game faster.
Despite the statistics and other ‘advanced features’, Dota Plus is basically a glorified tutorial for new players. This is great since new players have had a difficult time in understanding the basic mechanics of the game. The interaction of the various items and skills with each other is very confusing for any new player. But the onus on providing an efficient and useful tutorial lies with the game developer.
Welcoming new players should always be a priority for the game developer as it fuels the growth of the title. Hiding the tutorial behind a paywall does not seem fair. This is especially the case when you consider the size and the number of new players joining the game lately.
Valve should revamp the free tutorials available to any new player. A comprehensive tutorial which features different tiers of difficulty within the game is the need of he game. This would balance out the Plus Assistant’s role, which would not be the exclusive source of learning in the game. The Assistant would then act as an extra opinion with suggestions based on the current meta and similarly ranked players. Without any significant changes to the tutorial system in Dota 2, Dota Plus seems to be unfair towards new players.